Two Early Symptoms Of ‘Silent Killer’ Cancer Have Been Identified

26 people die of this cancer every day in the UK
ljubaphoto via Getty Images

Recently brought into the spotlight by US TV star Jerry Springer’s death, pancreatic cancer is often dubbed a ‘silent killer’ due to symptoms being hard to spot in the early stages of the disease. This has led to the cancer having one of the lowest survival rates of any cancer with only five per cent of the people with the disease surviving for more than a decade after diagnosis.

However, thanks to research at the Nuffield Department of Primary Health Care Sciences, there are two new warning signs that can help doctors to diagnose the cancer.

Early Warning Signs Of Pancreatic Cancer

Until recently we knew that the main symptoms of pancreatic cancer were jaundice, loss of appetite or unintentional weight loss, feeling tired or having no energy, and a high temperature, or feeling hot and shivery.

Now, two symptoms that can appear up to a year before diagnosis have been identified. These are increased thirst and dark yellow urine.

Of course, these symptoms may not be an indicator of pancreatic cancer, researchers found that patients diagnosed with the cancer had a higher chance of experiencing these symptoms up to a year before diagnosis.

This is incredibly hopeful news for the future of pancreatic cancer treatment and Dr Wiqi Liao from the Nuffield Department of Primary Health Care Sciences is hopeful that GPs will now be more informed and confident in referring people for urgent tests. He said:

“These new findings enable us to conduct further work on understanding symptoms that could suggest pancreatic cancer. This will help GPs to make decisions about who to refer for urgent tests, especially when patients have several seemingly non-specific symptoms.”

Who Is At Risk Of Pancreatic Cancer?

According to Cancer Research UK, almost half of all cases of pancreatic cancer are diagnosed in people over 75 and it’s uncommon for anybody under the age of 40 to suffer from the disease. However, there are factors that can increase your risk of developing the disease including:

  • Being overweight - this causes over 10% of pancreatic cancer cases
  • Smoking and smokeless tobacco - around 20% of cases are caused by smoking cigarettes, cigars, pipes and chewing tobacco
  • Genetic factors make up for 5-10% of cases

What To Do If You Think You Have Pancreatic Cancer

The NHS recommends that if you are experiencing jaundice, have been vomiting for more than two days, had diarrhoea for more than 7 days or are experiencing symptoms that you’re concerned about, call 111 to get advice.

However, if you’ve lost a noticeable amount of weight over the last 6 to 12 months without trying, have other symptoms of pancreatic cancer that don’t get better after two weeks or a condition that causes symptoms with your digestion that are not getting better after two weeks of using your usual treatments, get in touch with your GP.

The NHS also stresses that while these symptoms can be symptoms of many other conditions and having them doesn’t mean that you have the cancer, it’s still important to get them checked by a GP.